As one is reminded, every time one turns on the television, we have officially been coping with the disaster that is COVID-19 for a year now…at least here in the States. JRA hit our 1-year work-from-home anniversary on Tuesday, March 16. While we’re typically proud of any milestone, this was never one that we could have predicted, and I, for one, cannot wait to get back to the office and to be able to see my JRA Family on some sort of day-to-day level.
Finding the Silver Lining
In light of the one-year anniversary of this tragedy, I saw on several news channels the request to look back in your phone for the last picture you took, prior to being quarantined. After scrolling through hundreds of the “silver lining pictures” of being home with my family, a smile popped on my face when I realized that the last photo was taken with my extended industry family…one for whom I have missed more than words can say.
Last year at this time, KJ and I had just returned from the IAAPA Leadership Conference, a very interesting one at that, where we saw the beginnings of the shut-down of our industry, right before our very eyes. We returned to the office on Monday, only to pack up all of our things with the rest of the team to head home. No one guessed that we would still be talking to one another via Zoom/Meets/Teams/etc. a year later.
We were so happy to see the IAAPA IN-PERSON EVENT registration pop up for their latest networking event, just this past week in Orlando. And, while we couldn’t make it work for us, we have heard great comments from those who attended, and excitement from others, like us, who were unable to make the journey. JRA is also thrilled, and honored, to be IAAPA’s inaugural M&S Solutions Sponsor for their upcoming Virtual Conference. And while the mix of both in-person and virtual events fill your calendar, I’m going to reminisce a bit, to where we all hope to get back to at some point down the road: the two in-person IAAPA events of 2020, that we were lucky enough to attend.
2020 Travels – The IAAPA EMEA South Africa Summit
It seems like a lifetime ago now. The IAAPA EMEA South Africa Summit was an incredible way to start the year, and a trip that I’ll never forget. I had to know that it was going to be unforgettable when I bumped into Jim Pattison (Ripley Entertainment Inc.) during my layover, and then the Wood/Weaver (SALLY Dark Rides) clan as we began boarding the plane to Johannesburg, SA…this was gonna be good!
In true IAAPA fashion, team members were ready for us as we arrived to the hotel to check-in with all of the necessary information for the next several days ahead. Not to mention, Diane (Digital Experience, IAAPA) was there, letting us know where to meet to get to the Opening Reception, and how much time we had before we were going to be left to fend for ourselves to get there. Off we went, to the Montecasino Café Cru, for a beautiful outdoor evening event to welcome everyone. This was followed by a nice dinner with a smaller group, and fun “wayfinding” to get back to our part of the resort.
The next morning began with breakfast at the Palazzo, check-out, and a transfer to the Apartheid Museum. Once arriving, we were welcomed with a wonderful presentation in their conference space, lead by Sabine Lehmann (Executive Director, AAVEA). Other panelists included moderator Sibusiso Dlamini (Functional Head of Resorts Operations, City of Tshwane), Craig Allenby (Acting Managing Director, National Zoological Gardens of South Africa), Wayde Davy (Deputy Director, Apartheid Museum), and Janine Muthusamy (General Manager, Sales and Marketing, Constitution Hill). We were then taken on a guided tour of the museum, which illustrates apartheid (segregation) and the 20th century history of South Africa. After being transferred to Soweto, we had lunch at the Sakhumzi Restaurant, followed by a guided bus tour of Soweto, where we stopped to see Nelson Mandela’s home and monument. The day continued to be full with a tour of Constitution Hill and a city sightseeing bus tour (one of my favorite things to do in a new city when you don’t have time). The day ended with the group checking into the Gold Reef City Theme Park Hotel and Braai dinner at Barney’s Restaurant.
We started with another breakfast (at Barney’s) and check-out kind of morning…because IAAPA loves to keep us on our toes. We began with a presentation in the Prospectus room at the Gold Reef City Theme Park from General Manager, Andre Hudson. Their resort is very convenient, with everything on the grounds. The group was then taken on guided tours of the park, both before, and after lunch, as well as a tour of their Gold Mine; not something that we typically get to see as part of a theme park. We were then transferred to Lanseria Airport and headed to Cape Town and the Southern Sun Hotel Waterfront. Johannesburg has the history, but Cape Town has been on my mom’s “bucket list” for as long as I can remember, so, being able to make this trip with my parents was another thing that made it so special.
Another JAM PACKED day on the horizon. To get our strength, we started with breakfast at the Southern Sun Hotel Waterfront, followed by a walk to Zeitz MOCAA, a conference in their Scheryn Arena, and a behind the scenes tour of the amazing contemporary art museum (if you’re ever there, DO NOT SKIP THE GIFT SHOP!). Roxanne Marais (Manager, Zeitz MOCAA) welcomed the group with one of the best panels I have ever experienced; moderated by Tinyiko Mageza (Executive Head of Marketing, V&A Waterfront), Lila Jutzen (Marketing Manager, Groot Constantia Wine Estate), Michael Farquhar (CEO, Two Oceans Aquarium), Annicia Manyaapelo (Head of Marketing and Communications (Zeitz MOCCA), and Wahida Parker (Managing Director, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway). We had a lovely lunch at Den Anker, prior to a guided visit of Two Oceans Aquarium, and our transfer to Table Mountain. You can see Table Mountain from everywhere, but, until you are at the top, there’s no way to get a true appreciation. We took the cable car to the top station, and were able to spend some time up there, and it was truly one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen. After being transferred back to the hotel to freshen up, we began our evening with a reception at Sundowners at The Cape Wheel. The keynote presentation by Mikko Manka (Research Director, TAK Research), and networking dinner were held at Two Oceans Aquarium to finish off the night.
The next day began with a guided bus tour of Cape Peninsula. This would not have been complete without our stop at Boulders Beach to see the adorable penguins…a must see, even if you aren’t an animal lover. We had lunch at Harbour House Kalk Bay, which may be my favorite lunch spot of any IAAPA trip, and then headed to Botanical Garden Kirstenbosch. We were taken on a guided tour of Botanical Garden Kirstenbosch and the Kirstenbosch Tree Canopy Walkway, and I can honestly say that if I lived there, it would be a weekly trip for me. Another transfer took us to Groot Constantia Estate, where we enjoyed a tour of the estate, their winery, and were treated to a wine tasting. That, and dinner at Simon’s was the perfect send off for a fabulous Summit.
My last day was filled with a family tour day for Dad, Mom and me. We made our rounds, and then had a lovely dinner with the Woods/Weaver, before I headed out on an evening flight. I continued to receive more pictures from my parents over the next several days, enjoying the remainder of their trip. What a magical place!
A big “thank you” to the host locations: Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill, Gold Reef City – Pur Jozi, Pur Gold, Groot Constantia – Landgoed Estate, Table Mountain – Arial Cableway, Cicy Sight Seeing South Africa, Two Oceans Aquarium, and Zeitz MOCAA. And, to the sponsors: Cape Wheel – Turn for Good, JNE&LC. Not to mention to IAAPA, and the EMEA Team, specifically. It was truly a trip of a lifetime. The hospitality in South Africa is second to none, and I look forward to making another trip back there someday.
2020 Travels – A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Skip ahead to March, and we were off to Los Angeles, California, for the IAAPA Leadership Summit. I arrived a couple of days early due to the Board Meetings taking place, prior to the Summit. The ever-looming discussions of the coronavirus were top of mind, and we were curious what was to come for the remainder of the week. IAAPA “pivoted” in more ways than one, and still managed to host a fantastic few days of content for the group, all while we saw the world closing (and FAST) around us.
The Summit began, as most do, with Opening Remarks from Hal McEvoy (President & CEO, IAAPA), Amanda Thompson, OBE (2020 & 2021 IAAPA Chairman and Managing Director, Blackpool Pleasure Beach), and Ken Whiting (IAAPA First Vice Chair and President, Whiting’s Foods at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk). While their words continued to be positive about the industry, there was a looming unknown about what the next few days were going to bring. That being said, they “took it in stride”, and we were off for a great event.
The Opening Keynote Speakers of the event were Chris Beatty (Park Creative Executive, Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and Jill Estorino (Executive Vice President, Global Marketing and Sales, Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products). There’s really no better way to start the day, than talking about “the mouse”. They were both extremely insightful, energetic, and got the group even more excited for our trip to the park later in the day. After a networking break, there was a Manufacturers and Suppliers panel discussion, moderated by John Lindsey (Program Director, nFusion), with panelists Monty Lunde (Principal, Technifex), Roberta Perry (VP, Business Development, Edwards Technologies, Inc.), and Cliff Warner (Chairman, MYCOTOO, Inc.). As members of the M&S constituency, we love when there are opportunities to hear from a similar voice, especially when they are as strong as the four on this stage were.
A networking lunch got the afternoon moving, and then we were headed to Disneyland. The team at Disney greeted us, all smiles of course, followed by a presentation from Kris Theiler (Vice President, Disneyland Park). Listening to her journey, and the way she spoke of her team, was an absolute privilege. Next on the list: STAR WARS Galaxy’s Edge, and it is everything, and more, anyone could have ever dreamed of. We were so lucky to be able to see the land, prior to lockdown (which was the next day, for Disney), and even luckier to be able to enjoy it with our industry peers. After the evening event, a number of us stayed at the park…because, why would you ever leave Disneyland if you don’t have to?!?
The Beginning A New Reality
Throughout the first day, conversations continued about the changes that were being made to the schedule, due to all of the changes that were happening all around us. We were still able to enjoy a fantastic breakfast panel, moderated by Anne Rashford (Director, Featured Experiences and Business Development, Museum of Science and Industry), with panelists Gretchen Baker (Managing Director, Museum Experience, Lucas Museum of Narrative Art), Leslie Mark Kendall (Chief Historian, Petersen Automotive Museum), and Dave Cobb (Principal, Creative Development, Thinkwell). The session focused on how guests are reshaping the experience more and more, and how innovation that incorporates this is changing the way they plan for the future of their museums and clients. With the original plans for the rest of the day getting cancelled due to the pandemic closures, we were lucky that IAAPA was able to get us into Universal Studios Hollywood for the afternoon. No matter the weather, you can’t “rain on my parade” any time I get to go to Hogwarts! A group of us finished the night with a comedy club, and a fun dinner together.
The group continued to get smaller and smaller as the days and hours went by. Although most of the agenda for the third day was cancelled, Jake Wood (Co-Founder and CEO, Team Rubicon), was the Closing Keynote Speaker, and he did not disappoint. I have since bought both of his books, and continue to use a lot of what I learned from him that morning. The Team at IAAPA did all that they could to provide content worthy of a trip. A special thanks to the sponsors of the Summit as well: CarrierBid, Dynamic Attractions, extreme Engineering, FREEMAN, Gateway Ticketing Systems, hownd, The Companies of Nassal, PGAV Destinations, PROSLIDE Technology, Inc., S&S – Sansei, and Vekoma. Had I known that it would be over a year before I would see my industry friends and family, I would have hugged them a little tighter before separating. I do have to say though, my last stop of the trip couldn’t have been better, or more meaningful when I think about it…an intimate dinner amongst “family”, celebrating a surrogate father’s birthday!
We cannot wait to get back to in-person events, to see all of our old friends, and to make countless new ones. In the meantime, please join us for IAAPA’s upcoming Virtual Conference. We hope to “see” you all there.
To register for the upcoming IAAPA Virtual Conference April 7 & 8, visit www.iaapa.org/virtualconference.